Mildred, I’ve kept going as straight as I can. Is it alright to turn round now?
Stonehenge was put up for auction in 1915 by the Antrobus family following the death in World War I of the only surviving male heir. Cecil Chubb’s interest in the local area led to him attending the sale, with him bidding and purchasing Lot 15 on a whim for £6,600… as he wished to avoid the stones being acquired by someone overseas. It is also speculated that he bought the stones as a present for his wife, only for her to be less than pleased with his new purchase.
He gave Stonehenge to the nation on 26 October 1918. The deed of gift included the following conditions:
First that the public shall have free access to the premises hereby conveyed and Every part thereof on the payment of such reasonable sum per head not exceeding one shilling [about 70 pence today] for each visit and subject to such conditions as the Commissioners of Works in the exercise and execution of their statutory powers and duties may from time to time impose. Secondly that the premises shall so far as possible be maintained in their present condition. Thirdly that no building or erection other than a pay box similar to the Pay Box now standing on the premises shall be erected on any part of the premises within four hundred yards of The Milestone marked “Amesbury 2” on the northern frontage of the premises and Fourthly that the Commissioners of Works will at all times save harmless and keep indemnified the Donors and each of them their and each of their estates and effects from and against all proceedings costs claims and expenses on account of any breach or non observance of the covenants by the Donors to the like or similar effect contained in the Conveyance of the premises to the Donors.
And importantly that, “Local residents are still entitled to free admission to Stonehenge because of a different agreement concerning the moving of a right of way.” That agreement is a resolution passed by Amesbury Parish Council on 12 April 1921 which states, “The Council relinquishes all claims on the right of way now enclosed, on condition that all householders and their families, (or all inhabitants) of the parishes, comprising the Rural District of Amesbury, and the householders and their families (or inhabitants) of the Parish of Netheravon, be granted free admission to Stonehenge at all times.”
Seems straightforward enough but, according to yesterday’s Salisbury Journal, English Heritage have changed the rules and free access is now restricted to local residents comprising no more than one adult and three children. Local resident, Colin Watson, is reported as saying however that, “I think that it is absolutely outrageous that English Heritage has changed this policy via the back door. For years people have managed to visit Stonehenge free of charge and I think what they have done is against the agreement that was laid out when Sir Cecil Chubb gave the land to the nation.”
An English Heritage spokesperson has stated that, “With the introduction of our advanced ticketing system we felt it was important to provide more information to people wanting to visit Stonehenge when demand was so high. We refreshed the application criteria to ensure it was available to all genuine local residents. By doing this we believe we have increased and extended access because every adult can now bring children with them. Take up of local resident passes has increased significantly this year and we are delighted to have seen a surge in people from the local area visiting Stonehenge and the new visitor centre.”
Full Salisbury Journal article here.